NBA legend Larry Bird did not tell players to shut up and play the damn game

  • 17.09.2020 16:41:19

The claim: NBA legend Larry Bird has criticized current players, suggesting they are being disrespectful to President Trump

The recent boycott of the National Basketball Association playoffs by players to protest the killing of a Black man by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, underscores the reality that sports and politics are increasingly interlocked.

After the boycott, social media pages "Libtard Nation" and Capitalism, among other accounts, posted an item on Facebook purportedly quoting NBA basketball legend Larry Bird: "Back in my day the game had fundamentals and honored the commander in chief. Now it's a bunch of radical fundamentalists who dishonor the flag and cross and only care about looking flashy. Just shut up and play the damn game."

Bird didn't say that

Bird played for the Boston Celtics for 13 seasons and was head coach of the Indiana Pacers for three years before moving into an executive role and later an advisory position with the team.

Asked about the purported Bird quote, Danny Lopez, vice president for external affairs and corporate communications for the Pacers, tells USA TODAY by email: "It is totally false."

Broadcast journalist Carlos Diaz of Indianapolis' WTHR-TV likewise received a similar reply upon contacting the Pacers.

The legend's history with a commander-in-chief

In 1984, Bird skipped a team meeting with President Ronald Reagan in the White House the day after the Celtics beat the Los Angeles in Game 7 of a hard-fought NBA Finals at the Boston Garden.

The invitation to the White House for the winner was only relayed to the Celtics on game day afternoon, with the winner to fly to Washington the following day, according to Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, Bird was one of three team members who skipped the visit, including one who was getting married. Bird, who did not indicate why he declined the trip, went directly home to Brookline, Massachusetts, apparently to sleep after staying up all night celebrating. Asked about  the White House trip, Bird, according to Shaughnessy, quipped: "If the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.''

The comment would suggest that Bird would not likely lecture others on honoring the commander-in-chief as outlined in the purported 2020 quote.

USA TODAY asked Libtard Nation and Capitalism for a comment but did not get an immediate reply.

Our ruling: False

Our research finds no evidence that Bird made the comments in question and an outright denial of the claim by a spokesman for the Indiana Pacers. We rate this claim as FALSE.

 Doug Stanglinn / USA TODAY

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